Letter: Loss of memory

Sir: Those experiencing memory loss should not be misled into believing that it is part of the "normal process of ageing" ("I've lost my keys... I'm going mad", Review 4 August).

Our mental processes may slow down as we get older. This does not account for serious memory loss experienced by those who have dementia - a disease which now affects more than 700,000 people in the UK, 17,000 of whom are under 65.

The claim that "normal age-associated memory impairment" can be distinguished from dementia because those with dementia will often become "irritable, withdrawn, rude, scruffy, idle or suspicious" is complete nonsense.

Some of these characteristics may be exhibited as dementia develops, but by far the most common early symptom is forgetfulness - too often dismissed as a natural part of the ageing process.

To encourage a misunderstanding of memory problems could prevent some people from seeking early diagnosis and, with the advent of the first anti-dementia treatments, from receiving drugs which may help them cope with the disease.


Alzheimer's Disease Society

London SW1